#WorldDiabetesDay: Is your itchy skin a sign of diabetes?

A person with diabetes should not ignore itchy skin.

Causes of diabetes itching

  • Itching can result from damaged nerve fibres located in the outer layers of skin.
  • The cause of diabetes-related itching is often diabetic polyneuropathy or peripheral neuropathy. This occurs when high blood glucose levels damage nerve fibres, particularly those in the feet and hands.
  • Before the nerve damage occurs, the body experiences high levels of cytokines.
  • Persistent itchiness may be a precursor to nerve damage in someone with diabetes. Itchiness should never be ignored.
  • People with diabetes can experience associated disorders that include kidney or liver failure. These conditions may also cause itching.
  • New medication may cause the skin to itch in persons with diabetes. This should be discussed with your doctor.
  • Other reasons for itching may be underlying skin conditions like athlete’s foot, eczema,  hidradenitis suppurative, psoriasis and sunburn.

Symptoms vary and depend on the cause

  • If a person has peripheral neuropathy, they are more likely to experience itching on the lower parts of the legs.
  • Peripheral neuropathy can also cause a loss of sensation, usually the feet or hands. This could be accompanied by a tingling sensation.
  • Itching often occurs at night.

How to relieve diabetes itching

  • Manage diabetes carefully and prevent blood sugar levels from becoming too high.
  • Avoid taking very hot baths. Hot water can strip the skin of its natural moisture.
  • Apply skin lotion immediately after bathing or showering. A person with diabetes should not apply lotion between the toes, as this can attract harmful fungi.
  • Use lotions that are hypoallergenic. There are also diabetes-specific lotions available.
  • Stick to a healthy diet and manage blood sugar levels throughout the day.


Caxton Central

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